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Big K

The big first day of school was today. And honestly, I’m fried, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Here’s what my last 48 hours have looked like:

The Lead-Up

Sunday at around 7 p.m.: I run into my sister-in-law at the grocery. We chat about school of course. During which I time I learn that I’ve chosen the hardest way to pick up Simon in the afternoon, that her kids were all tired and grumpy for months after kindergarten started, and that her oldest cried every day the whole year. Zen-like calm suffers a stress fracture.

Monday at around 3 p.m.: I run into the outgoing Brandeis PTA president at Target. “Are you putting your son on the bus?” she asks. “Yes,” I reply. “You are?!” she practically shrieks at me. “You told me to!” I shriek back. “I know I did. But I didn’t expect anyone to listen to me.” Then she motions to her daughter and tells me that she finally put her on the bus during third grade. “And how do you like it?” she asks the daughter. “I hate it” comes the not-so-reassuring reply. “See,” she says. “But at least I’m not driving her any more.” Also, she thinks I chose the wrong kindergarten teacher. Complete break opens in zen-like calm.

Monday at 8:30 p.m.: We put Simon to bed, and he has trouble getting to sleep. It’s finally hit him, and he’s scared about the changes. He wakes up several more times during the night, once telling Matt that he dreamed someone died. Zen-like calm suffers multiple, compound fractures. Matt not-so-reassuringly tells me he knew this would happen.

I compensate by fixating on lunch. Simon has an online account, which I fund. Worried the funds won’t show up yet, I then put cash in an envelope. Worried he won’t know how to use cash, I leave note with my cell on envelope. Envisioning him going hungry, I then stuff three snacks in the back-pack just be safe. Then I pour a glass of wine, breathe shallowly, and wait for him to wake up again.

Game Day

Tuesday morning, a tired mamma wakes up at 6:30 in the insomnia room, aka the guest bedroom. Simon will sleep for another half hour or so in our bed with Matt. This room shuffling being the result of an aforementioned middle-of-the-night awakening by Simon. I’ve told the school I will be there by 8:00 to help sort kids from the bus. As I leave, Simon is having breakfast and Matt is getting him ready for the big event.

At 8:00 a.m. I roll into school, meet the new assistant principal, chat with other parent volunteers and staff, and learn how we’ll be checking in kids as they arrive from the buses. There is paperwork to check, cross-check, and in some cases fill out. Just as I’m reviewing the procedure with my table-mate, the first bus rolls in. With Somalis. Lots and lots of Somalis, none of whom have paperwork, all of whom are sent to my table. After they leave, the assistant principal tells me he’s glad he had a seasoned parent (me) at that table. I tell him my one and only is starting kindergarten. He blanches.

I then find out that I have signed up for the whole day. AllĀ  my cash has gone to Simon’s lunch back-up fund, I’ve packed nothing, and there is no real food near the school. I am now facing another five hours in the school gym fueled by nothing more than peanut butter crackers from the vending machine in the staff lounge and trips to the water fountain.

For the next three to four hours, each class is sent back to the gym to check paperwork again, make sure bus tags have been created for the trip home, make sure incomplete paperwork is now complete, and make sure that we have a parent signature or phone call to verify everyone’s means of getting home. And let me tell you right now that getting kids home from school on the first day requires more blood, sweat, tears, and man-hours than I could have ever imagined.

By 3:10, the kindergarteners and first-graders are sent back to the gym one more to be put in lines for buses, have their paperwork checked once more, and be escorted onto the buses. By now I’ve seen many of these kids three times. “Shreya,” I’ll ask, “Are you all set with your new depot number? Great! Hey Idris, you just finished your first day as a kindergartener! How awesome is that?” I give hugs, pats, and high-fives to most. I congratulate them all. One boy who knew me from KIP runs over to hug me three times. And at 3:45 I go and collect my own child, who tells me that he saw me this morning and this afternoon, “three times when you didn’t see me.”


He falls asleep on the way home, watches an hour of tv, and then is ready to play ball, go out for dinner, and grab celebratory ice cream. We run into the lovely Caroline at the ice cream store. Simon tells me that he loved everything except for the bus, ironically, which was too loud. He likes his class. He likes all the rules. He likes being one of Mr. Sowder’s “super-stars.” He got a sticker for behaving. He ate two bowls of mac and cheese and fresh watermelon for lunch.

Tonight he went to bed without event or agitation. I’m about to tuck in myself, tired, but no longer suffering from anticipatory jitters. Helping to sort out the transportation plans of ca. 500 kids was no picnic, but it sure beat coming home, clock-watching, and fretting. I’d say the school year was successfully launched.


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